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Neuroscience Experiment Finds Earned Content is King When It Comes to Commerce

Thu, 07/20/2017

Earned Articles Delivered Nearly 3.5 X the Purchase Intent as Traditional Digital Ads

New York, July 2017 – According to a neuroscience experiment sponsored by MSL on how the brain engages with and reacts to different forms of digital media, earned and brand-produced video content far surpassed traditional paid media in delivering brand lift, engagement and purchase intent. The study found that the earned articles tested delivered significantly more powerful purchase intent than any other forms of content (45% vs 13% for digital ads or 3.5 X), while brand-produced video content delivered significantly stronger positive feelings about a brand (2.5 X) than traditional digital advertising.

Conducted by Spark Neuro in April among 50 millennial women in New York, the experiment explored subconscious decision-making by using a variety of neuroscience measures -- EEG to measure brain activity, GSR to measure skin conductance, eye tracking to quantify visual attention, mouse-tracking to determine decision speed, as well as computerized micro-facial expression recognition to catch every smile and smirk.  By reading brain activity and other neurological responses, the experiment quantified what is otherwise considered subjective—to what degree people are engaged in content, their emotional experience and how it translates into decisions about brands and commerce.

After being exposed to varying forms of content – including brand ads, articles, brand-produced videos and a new form of hybrid digital advertising linking to earned content (Earned Content Units) -- study participants were asked to decide which products they were likely to buy. Digital banner ads set the baseline at 13% for purchase intent. Brand videos doubled the purchase intent compared to digital ads, achieving 26%. Meanwhile earned articles increased purchase intent to 45% or 3.5 X more than digital ads.

Eye tracking results demonstrated that participants also looked at MSL’s and Publicis Media’s new form of hybrid digital advertising, “earned content units” (ECUs), for twice as long as traditional banner ads (0.8 seconds vs. 0.4 seconds). This was particularly interesting given the units are the same size, but are purposely less designed than traditional digital brand ads. The ECUs are an important component of the Conversation2Commerce platform that was launched in September 2016 to better deliver the true potential of influence in marketing and reputation at scale by applying paid media strategies, targeting, data, and analytics to earned media. Participants spent more than 10 X the amount of time engaging with earned articles than traditional digital brand ads vs. (4.69 seconds vs. .4 seconds).

Metrics for brand lift showed a different trend than purchase intent. Digital ads only contributed a 1.4% brand lift. Unlike for purchase intent, earned articles did not majorly affect perceptions of a brand, only increasing affinity to 1.6%, which although slight was still a statistically significant difference compared to digital ads. Brand videos did an even better job of reinforcing brand love, promoting a 3.6% brand lift.

According to Erin Lanuti , Chief Influence Officer at MSL, the study provides insight on how marketers can use different forms of content for different purposes as well as the importance of embedding influence into their campaigns through existing digital media buys.

“This study furthers our ongoing quest to better understand the role of influence in the marketing mix.  The findings are consistent with many of the data points we’ve seen globally across Conversation2Commerce that earned influence consistently delivers better engagement, brand lift and commerce compared to digital ads. It also showcases the power of our new Earned Content Unit format and the C2C methodology to deliver more engagement and a faster path to purchase than traditional digital buys.”

MSL launched Conversation2Commerce and Conversation2Credibility by putting MSL’s expertise in earned media and influence at the core and surrounding it with best-in-class expertise and technologies from Publicis Communications and Publicis Media.

Spencer Gerrol, CEO and Founder of Spark Neuro, said, “Findings revealed a subtle but important distinction. Videos generated stronger emotions in connection with brands and effectively influenced perceptions of the products being featured. Meanwhile, articles were considered more credible, ultimately contributing to more purchasing. While brand perception and purchasing are unequivocally connected, subtle differences were clearly present in the data.”

Gerrol added, “Even though articles were better for purchase intent, however, videos showed an interesting persuasion dynamic. For participants that already showed strong preference for a particular product, the video did a more effective job of pushing them over the edge to buy. Emotions are a key part of decision-making and sometimes the greater emotional boost of a video is all it takes to officially convert.”

Guillaume Herbette , CEO of MSL said, “MSL is focused on finding new ways to enable brands to better use the levers of influence to deliver a new level of meaningful and measurable impact.”

For further information and media contacts: Michael Echter , Global Director of Corporate Communications, MSL +1 917 804 0635

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About SPARK Neuro

SPARK Neuro is an applied neuroscience company revolutionizing the evaluation of audience engagement in advertising and entertainment. Instead of relying on traditional, biased research methods, SPARK Neuro goes right to the source, measuring brain and nervous system activity so they can see exactly when people are engaged and when they are not. SPARK Neuro quantifies attention and emotional levels with second-by-second precision.  SPARK’s research is trusted by major brands including GM, Clorox, Toyota, Procter & Gamble, NBC, Universal Pictures, Telemundo, and Netflix. SPARK Neuro has been featured for their innovative research by CNN, ABC News, The Washington Post, and AdWeek. | Twitter: @SparkNeuro | Facebook: | LinkedIn:

About Publicis Groupe - The Power of One

Publicis Groupe [Euronext Paris FR0000130577, CAC 40] is a global leader in marketing, communication, and digital transformation. Active across the entire value chain, from consulting to creation, and production, Publicis Groupe offers its clients a transversal, unified and fluid model allowing them access to all the Groupe’s tools and expertise around the world. Publicis Groupe is organized across four Solutions hubs:

Publicis Communications, Publicis Media, Publicis.Sapient and Publicis Health . These 4 Solutions hubs operate across principal markets, and are carried across all others by Publicis One. Publicis One is a fully integrated service offering making the Groupe’s expertise available to all clients, under one roof. Present in over 100 countries, Publicis Groupe employs nearly 80,000 professionals. | Twitter: @PublicisGroupe | Facebook: | LinkedIn: Publicis Groupe | | Viva la Difference!

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